My planner was too clever in organizing the trip to Yosemite; we entered from Lee Vining which was the north east entry to Yosemite. So we were able to drive all the way through the park. In six miles we climbed some 3 000 feet, stopping here and there before we arrived at Upper Pines camp where we had a reservation for two nights.
The drive began so stark with huge granite rocks everywhere. I had said in previous posts that we may be all 'laked out' but now I was beginning to think we will also be all 'rocked out' by the end of this trip.
We also stopped at Tuolumne Meadows to hike along the John Muir Trail to Soda springs where the water literally bubbles out of the ground, and from here we could see the Cathedral Range and peak, which was beautiful. There was also a very interesting museum there Parsons Museum.
Cathedral Peak in the distance
Parsons Museum, built from rock and timber in the area
Thank goodness I know Chuck is fit and that I had extensive heart checks before leaving Australia, because at times I've been gasping for breath. Then I realized, that Chuck too was not breathing as easily as normal......it's because we were so high above sea level. We also stopped and walked a little way up Lembert Dome, which was in the same loop.
Who would have thought we would find a beach in Yosemite? There it was alongside Tenaya Lake, which is where we had lunch, at a picnic table on the beach, with 360 degrees of stunning scenery to take in.
The vegetation began to alter as we went further into the park; we came across Lots of Fir and Pine tree and then Oak trees and eventually through a series of tunnels, before seeing lots of scrub where obviously a fire had been, quite recently.
As we neared Half Dome Village, (for those who have been to Yosemite, names have changed and this is what was previously known as Curry Village. We almost got one.....decap....itation (pedestrian, but she quickly ducked her head) before we saw Elcap....itan!'
Chuck was SO excited to finally see Capitan my Capitan; he could tick another off his bucket list. We spent ages looking at this great rock before us, very high up and in the very far distance, we could see about five people climbing it.....gave me the shivers!
El Capitan - tick for Chuck on his Bucket List
To give an idea of El Cap's size - the climbers taken on a 400 lens are just alongside the dark spot at the top right of the above pic
When we were driving into Yosemite, I said to Chuck 'I can picture we will have a great camp site and good neighbours'.
We were assigned camp No 82 but when we arrived, there was already somebody camped in our spot. Chuck spoke to him, Herr... somebody from Germany, who was in fact parked in the incorrect spot. Herr somebody moved and as we backed in Chuck said 'ein bier bite', me directing Chuck with reversing had to chirp in and added 'ein trocken weis wein bite'...the next thing Herr somebody was over holding two beers and apologising for being in the incorrect spot.
Each spot was assigned their own 'bear box' and we had strict instructions that we were in bear country, they roamed around at night and more so to protect the bear than the human, we were to lock anything food away. Into the bear box had to go anything scented, any food and even unopened cold drink cans. This did apply more for campers than RV's and caravans, but we needed to be very careful.
Bear Country Warning!!
Once we were sorted we took a stroll to Half Dome Village to see what went on there. When back at camp, we sat outside and had a sundowner. Chuck started to chat to our neighbours to our right side, Gayle and Michael; a really nice couple and we four hit it off immediately. Next thing they headed over, drinks in hand for a 'show and tell'. They wanted to see inside our van and we would see inside theirs. Then they refilled their glasses and came over with very generous portions of cheese and biscuits to continue chatting. Yet another neighbour, Kurt arrived, carrying a flagon saying 'do-ya alls want some apple pie?' Apple pie turned out to be some liquid which tasted just like apple pie but had one big kick to it! The kick in the juice was called Everclear, apparently almost 120% proof alcohol. Then Kurt's wife and friend arrived and we all chatted until quite late. A great evening was had by all.
Kurt, his wife and friend at morning breakfast - he cooked up a storm
We certainly got the good camp site and lovely friendly neighbours that I had envisaged early on in the morning. I'm sure, because nobody had internet, it made it so much more social, as everybody was out and about and ready to meet new friends and converse.
We had planned to do the Mirror Lake hike the following morning, and so had Michael and Gayle. They suggested that not too early in the morning, we tee up and do the hike together. Earlier on in the evening, I had told them about my early rising for Monday golf and they wanted to make it clear that it would not be THAT early.
Chuck, Gayle & Michael on the hike to Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake is what Yosemite was for me; I dearly wanted to photograph the lake. So we set off, chatting away, and eventually arrived at the sign 'Mirror Lake'....somebody had stolen the water and left a puddle for us to see! Hence no mirror from the mountain into the lake; darn!!! We did pass a family of deer along the path, which was quite special.
We then went onto Yosemite Village and checked out the Ansel Adams gallery which I was very keen to see. From there we visited the museum, walked through the Indian Village where we saw our first ever Woodpecker. As we meandered along the path, I heard a tuck tuck tuck and thought, 'that must be what a Woodpecker sounds like', and sure enough there it was. Just like the squirrels and Blue Jays, (they must have all attended the same school), he was far too quick for me to get a good photograph, but the best photograph is in my head.
Best I could to to capture the Woodpecker
We walked around the Indian Village - a reproduction of what it would have been years ago. We had a walk along 'swinging bridge' from where we could see across the meadow and also towards a small river and beach.
We also went to the theatre and watched a documentary on Yosemite, which was very informative. Then we hopped onto a shuttle bus and headed for the Majestic Hotel. Very colonial with lovely huge fireplace, lots of Kilim’s and whoop whoop!, free internet where we hastily downloaded our mail.
Majestic Hotel - for the 'Elite'. Totally different to the rest of Yosemite
I mentioned the shuttle bus; there were stops throughout the park, so one did not have to use ones vehicle. We walked to the nearest stop and waited for the correct bus to stop, for the place we needed to get to. They run from 7am to 10pm around every 15 minutes, and service the entire park. All this was built into our $30 cost for the time we were in Yosemite. What a great deal.
Bridle Falls - The only falls that had a little water. It has been so dry
Gayle and Mike had to leave their site next door to ours and move to Lower Pines, as our camp was full. So we had a quick stop to check they were settled and a glass of champers with them. Also we could report that we had seen the Majestic Hotel, which is where their evening dinner was booked for. A bonus for us, was that from their new site, Half Dome was very visible. So whilst they were out later in the evening we headed back, we sat in their chairs at around 7pm and I photographed Half Dome as the sun set.
Half Dome at Sunset
When we returned to light the bbq, Kurt headed over with a large bowl of salsa. He was a cook of note! He and his wife told us that whilst we were away, we had missed a stampede of deer which came through the camp. Kurt enjoyed cooking so much, he enters cooking competitions and would not let me have his secret salsa recipe. He clearly loved both food and cooking and talked more about food than anything else. He was a lovely generous, friendly man.
During the early hours of the morning, our last night in Yosemite, I heard the bear box rattling, some movement about and what sounded like ice in an esky being moved around. I was sure Yogi bear was around. Kurt's wife said they had been raided by chipmunks, so she doubted it was a bear.
Yosemite was a beautiful national park, tranquil and full of history and beautiful scenery. One moment we would be facing a huge granite rock face and the next we could be in a meadow with the rock face in the distance.
The peak opposite Half Dome at Sunset
People we meet are always totally lost and fascinated by us. They find out we are from Australia, then ask which company we are renting our RV from. Charl tells them it is owned by our son, 'oh I get it your son lives I America, that's the connection'. Us 'no, he lives in Cape Town'....very blank looks, 'oohh, how does that work'......
Wow we can see why California has so many fires! The countryside is bone dry. There has been no rain in this area since April.
Look how dry things are - in fact this place's actual name is Drytown
The drive out of Yosemite was interesting, again a pass to negotiate and this time we had five miles of hairpin bends to contend with as well as a narrow road. Chuck does very well under these stressful situations.
We passed through Sonoma, Jamestown where Lake Tulloch is situated and which was a very pretty area. However the blue lake was bordered by absolute barren stone banks with a few trees dotted here and there. At one point the GPS took us off the main highway and through farm lands, we shuddered and shook our way along those back roads for about eight miles before finally finding good road systems once again.
We passed by a town named Copperopolis, the name comes from, yes you are right, copper mining, even though we are in the heart of California's Gold Country. We stayed here, not for the gold panning, but for the wine tasting which was also in this area.
We had a fair amount of housekeeping to do whilst in Plymouth, given that we had been out of Wi-Fi range for a few days. We needed to book into our next two stops, Bodega Bay and San Francisco. This was no mean feat! We went round and round in circles, so many camps we had chosen, were already booked out.....week-end was looming and week-ends are always a problem. We finally secured both bookings. Quite funny really as the Bodega Bay camp we originally emailed in the morning and a bit later, when we had coms, we phoned and secured a booking. However, later in the day, the email reply told us 'we are full' but the call made an hour earlier, had secured a site for three nights....huh?? Right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing as the bookings were done by two different people.
After the housekeeping stress we needed to get out and explore. We started at Safeway for much needed pantry and fridge restocking and then filled up with gas and then on our way to the wine route for some much needed fun.
We started at Drytown Cellars (see pic above, as to how dry the area is) - well we waited for a while in the reception, not even had the dog moved, or lifted her head when we walked in. Chuck went to find somebody to assist us with wine tasting. A young bloke arrived; he clearly did not want to be there and he admitted that the owners had gone off to lunch, leaving him to crush grapes and be cellar master. He was as sour as an old shrivelled up grape that had been kicked about whilst laying on the dry land for years. He even admitted that he worked to earn his cheque, that was it. I still don't know why we tried to make small talk with this person. Anyhow a little while later we softened him up and got him talking. We found out about the school he attended and that 'nothing ever happens here so what brought you two into our valley? We left with two bottles, we thought a sale may cheer him up and make his day. Just prior to leaving, another worker walked in, he had so much personality, an absolute character and the other one was moaning, 'oh he's always got stories to tell moan moan'.....
So we decided our day had to get better. The next stop was Prospect Cellars in the Main Street of Plymouth. Here we met the original owner, his daughter and an assistant. We had a great chat to all of them whilst quaffing back a few. We mentioned that we were looking for a winery with a view. They steered us in the direction of Shenandoah Valley and said Helwig Wines have an awesome view from their patio.
So off we set and we were welcomed by two gorgeous young men, Jack and David. We began tasting and then chatted to the only two other people who were tasting, Jean and Larry who were up sampling wine from Sacramento for the day. Jack was a very social chap and he confided in me that he had a 9 week old baby boy who he cared for whilst his fiancé worked in the evening and they also had a 3 year old boy; Jack worked 10 hours a day and was whacked, so he joined us in sampling to relieve his stress. Jack was also a keen Lacrosse player before he started a family and we four learnt about the game. By now it was closing time so Jean, Larry, Chuck and I headed out onto the patio and continued our chatting until around 5 pm.
We managed to stock up on a few bottles!
We both felt very comfortable in this Amador Wine Country and if we could not have secured bookings for Bodega Bay, we would have been happy to spend another night or two here before moving on. After all there were still more wineries to explore and a flower farm which was on our list, but which we never had time to visit.